Finland is no stranger to unicorns. Presently valuated at €1 billion (or more), you'll find companies such as HMD Global – which manufactures and sells phones under the Nokia brand – as well as gaming superstars Supercell and Rovio, food delivery comet Wolt, health tech company CRF Health and database expert MySQL. The most recent addition is Aiven, service provider for open source code database.
Yet, based on recent funding rounds, there are more companies attempting to break into the stable: for instance, such hi-tech companies as Oura and Iceye are clearly on the verge of unicorndom.
Oura, the maker of next level smart rings, was recently endorsed by none other than Kim Kardashian. Equally exciting is the true space age company Iceye, masters of satellite data. The current valuation for both is around €700 million, so they are closing in on the 1 billion mark very convincingly indeed.
The dynamic duo is not alone, either: the total value of Helsinki's startups now exceeds €25 billion and there are exciting growth companies elsewhere, too. For example, Oura hails from the northern city of Oulu.
The list of high-potentials includes startups like Varjo (virtual reality), IQM (quantum computing), Mobidiag (molecular diagnostics), Sulapac (bio-based "plastic"), as well as Aiforia, Bioretec, Relex, Supermetrics... names that may become household names in the coming years.
It is clear that the local startups have really hit their stride in recent years. In fact, since 2015, the valuation of the Helsinki startups has tripled. Must be something in the water? Perhaps, but there are also some observations one can make about the "secret sauce" of the local startups.
First of all, it's not just one sector that is producing all these growth companies. From health tech to space tech, from virtual reality to circular economy, there are all kinds of startups that are pushing the boundaries of innovation right now.
Second, there is "double potential" to be found in many of these companies. This means that the technology the company utilizes packs a lot of potential and there is also potential for significant commercial growth. In the perfect storm of innovation, cutting edge technology often joins hands with market opportunity.
But there's one key ingredient missing. Once upon a 90's, there was a catchphrase "It's the economy, stupid!". Now, that slogan should be upgraded to "It's the ecosystem, stupid!" as networks dictate the direction and pace of future innovation. Finland has some of the best ecosystems in the world, with innovation intensity that is second to none.
As a consequence, we see growth-minded companies that really hit the ground running. Running until they hit the one billion mark? Why stop there!
For international companies, there are good news here: Finnish innovation ecosystems are open to everybody. Finnish companies, big and small, thrive on collaboration – and want to hear what you have in mind.
In this welcoming setup, Business Finland serves as a facilitator, helping foreign players feel right at home from day one.
Come and meet us at our two SLUSH 2021 side events or send me a message!
SLUSH Side Event 2021: The Verge